Rendered Fat Content


Carl Moon: Women Baking Bread (ca. 1937-1943)
" … wrapped up as a manuscript."

It feels more ritual than purposeful, that first reading of the first printing of the pieces rendered into book form. I avoid this work like I avoid Covid, though I'm unsure why. I eventually manage to get over my aversion to reading my own writing and settle into the work, though it feels like hard work. I hold my red pen ready to highlight the errors I will most certainly spot, and dog-ear each corrected page for easier reference when I go back to update the mother manuscript. It's a long process. I measure it in ten page increments. something more than one hundred fifty pages. I anticipate a slog.

It's rare that I lose myself when reading my own writing.
Any other author might easily reel me in and hold me spellbound, pages read and remaining quickly dissolving into irrelevance. I'm hardly aware that I'm even reading. Some books just seem to read themselves to me, pulling me along just behind the narrator. My writing does not entrance me, not like that. I never seem to lose a self-consciousness and some static seems to clog my receptors. My critical self reads my pages, a real skeptic. I hold the work at arm's length and never expect it to delight me. I seek fatal flaws and find plenty.

A man might be his own worst editor, but also inevitably his first. He's his worst editor because he brings the same unconscious use patterns into his editing as he carried into his writing. He lacks a necessary objectivity. He knows of no ready alternative to whatever he's already said, so he's sort of a slave to the style he reviews. Little improvement other than superficial grammar corrections will likely happen, yet he must still read every page, each paragraph, and remain alert and aware throughout. They'll be no dozing allowed. He will not find satisfaction even if he gains a begrudging acceptance that the work's probably good enough. It will not seem great and this will leave him disappointed.

Proofing produces no finished product, just an interim end. Other more significant steps remain after, including enlisting readers to actually read the work through without having first written it, another first. I ask my readers not to review the work, for reviews tend to focus upon what the book wasn't, what's missing. I want my readers to share the story of their experience reading through it. What happened for them as they read the work? What differences did they experience? Did reading it even make a difference? This review serves as another Proofing, I guess.

Proofing demands patience. It will not produce a finished product and might convince the author that he's produced nothing really worth very much. It demands generous interpretations when critical ones seem easiest to muster. I must suspend my disbelief and hold any belief loosely, for I'm discovering what I've written, standing a little aside and seeing the structure for the very first time. It seems strange to admit it, but I always discover that I had no idea what I had written until I first see it put all together, wrapped up as a manuscript. I started reading another one this morning, holding my breath and reddest pen handy.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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